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Underwater photos: Up close and personal with sharks ()

This article was first published in the May 2016 issue of WIRED magazine. Be the first to read WIRED's articles in print before they're posted online, and get your hands on loads of additional content by subscribing online.

As a surfer (who had seen Jaws), Hollywood photographer Michael Muller used to be terrified of sharks. It took one dive to change his mind.

"I wanted to get out of the cage and interact with them, to photograph a great white in a studio," he says. Big movie lights would scare the sharks away, so Muller, 46, teamed up with surf photographer Erik Hjermstad to fabricate a 1,200W, Plexi-encased, seven-bulb lighting rig, powered by on-boat lithium batteries with 42-metre cables.

Muller's assistants, all certified rescue divers, held the lights and crawled the cables in his cage-free deep-dive studio while he shot the sharks - who were nonplussed, he says. "But when they attack, they come like a missile from really deep, so you're constantly checking at 360 degrees. You shoot, check, shoot."

The most surreal thing, he says, is having to swim directly at a shark to counter an attack: "One came at me. My friend swam head-on to it, and it turned away." Mostly, he says, they would bump into him while trying to catch fish. Over the course of a decade - and 27 expeditions in the Bahamas, Guadeloupe, Fiji and South Africa - Muller has photographed 19 shark species (the ones at the top of this screen are blacktips). 

The portraits are collected in his new book, Sharks (out now, Taschen). For Muller, it's his most personal project yet. "The animal has been completely misrepresented," he says. "They're not after us."

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